Thaddeus Jones, who works with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, began the final part of the conference by sharing some of the social media projects the Vatican is currently working on.
The first one he introduced was a Pope John Paul II commemoration web page--www.johnpaulii.va/en--which has a beautiful, modern look and feel to it. The site beautifully memorializes the newly-beatified Pope, and was created to share him with a new generation of online natives.
Jones then briefly covered the Vatican's YouTube channel and a new webpage which will be used to share Vatican video, both of which are small, yet important steps to further engage the digital world.
Next to speak was Eva Janosikova, who is in charge of social media promotion for World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid. Demonstrating social media's potency, she highlighted the Facebook page set up by the Vatican for the event. The page currently features over 200,000 followers, which makes it one of the Vatican's most successful new media projects to date. The page shows that the Vatican seems to be interested in using Facebook to generate dialogue instead of creating a new social network from the ground up.
But the big news of the day came after Jones then introduced a representative from a design group partnering with the Vatican. The group was tasked with creating a state-of-the-art news website for the Church that fully takes advantage of new media, a huge step for the Vatican onto the digital continent.
The new site, though not quite ready, will soon be found at News.va. It includes Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter integration, streaming video, blogs, and a full archive of media. And mobile enthusiasts need not worry: everything on the site is fully accessible through iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.
We at the conference were presented with a sneak peak at the site, and the first thing I noticed was the site's aesthetics. Simply put, the site is gorgeous. Some of the biggest complaints voiced by tech-savvy Catholics regard the drab look of Vatican websites, a problem that hasn't changed in many years; the current site is not particularly engaging and doesn't compare well to other popular websites.
But I think that's all going to change with News.va. I snapped some pictures of the new site so you can see what I mean:
|That gold bar in the middle shows the most current Vatican tweet.|
|The style mimics modern blogs with excerpts, pictures, and sidebars.|
|A more visual, modern, intuitive feel to the Vatican news site.|
According to the Vatican, News.va was ultimately created to "dialogue with the world." The site aims to gather news from all parts of the Catholic world and make it easy to absorb and discuss it. Since "dialogue" is the ground of the modern communication revolution, this new site is bound to please the online Catholic community.
Overall, the meeting has revealed that the Vatican has firmly embraced the digital age. They're not only intrigued by it, but committed to it. The Church has recognized its power, she has heard the cries of her people to "set sail on the digital seas," and now she has taken off!